President Donald Trump said he plans to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan in a speech August 21 and continue the longest-running war in American history.
Currently, there are about 9,800 US troops stationed in Afghanistan and more than 26,000 contractors.
The Pentagon defines a defense contractor as “any individual, firm, corporation, partnership, or other legal non-federal entity that enters into a contract directly with the DOD to furnish services, supplies, or construction.”
US defense contractors versus US troops deployed to Afghanistan in last decade. Image by Skye Gould via Business Insider.
This also includes intelligence analysis, translation and interpretation, as well as private-security contractors — who began taking over roles once held by uniformed soldiers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The defense industry has also made incredible profits since 2001, including nearly $100 billion in Afghanistan since 2007.
The graphic above compares the number of US troops and defense contractors in Afghanistan over the last decade.
Late yesterday afternoon Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Ca., added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require female American citizens to register for the draft when they reached 18 years old. The amendment passed in the House by a vote of 32-30. Ironically, Hunter voted against his own amendment, saying that he added it only to force a debate about the issue.
“A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines to take the hill,” Hunter said. “The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies’ throats out and kill them.”
But it looks like the Marine Corps veteran lawmaker’s plan may have backfired in that the measure actually passed and seems to have the support of many of his colleagues.
“I actually think if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Ca., said.
Another veteran congressman, Rep. Martha McSally, who flew A-10s in combat and recently went after the Air Force over their close air support budgetary priorities, suggested that Hunter’s rhetoric was long on emotion and short on fact, pointing out that draftees aren’t all sent to the front lines but also used to fill support billets.
Every year, the United States team with its Pacific allies for a military exercise in Thailand, Cobra Gold. Cobra Gold is the largest multinational military exercise in which the U.S. participates and has been an ongoing exercise for more than 30 years. In 2015, Cobra Gold included 26 nations, and for the first time, included China. The exercise smooths interoperability between nations in the region, especially when coordinating responses to a crisis, like Tsunamis and Typhoons.
The operation consists of a live fire exercise, a command post exercise, and (as with many military exercises) an operation to benefit the local population. There is also a jungle survival Training exercise where Thai Marines train U.S. troops to find water, which foods are safe to eat (scorpions!), and famously, demonstrate how they subdue a Cobra.
After the jungle training, those in attendance are given the option to participate in the Thai custom of drinking the Cobra’s blood.
WATM received this piece from a Marine reader deployed to Almaty, Kazakhstan, who was concerned about the scandal engulfing the Marine Corps over allegedly illegal postings of photos of female Marines on Facebook and other social media outlets. The views expressed in this piece are his own.
My views on the recent scandal are simple: sharing someone else’s nude photo with friends at the barracks is as equally reprehensible as sharing it on social media. There is no honor in either situation. If you justify the first, the latter will shortly follow.
I think the bigger problem here is that we have not done a good enough job fostering a culture of chivalry in the Marine Corps.
While we’ve done exceptionally well with regards to physical fitness, physical appearance, and discipline, we’ve also allowed a culture where “locker room talk” is not only acceptable, but somehow considered “manly” — and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This issue is neither unique to the Marine Corps nor the military. This behavior plagues our schools and workforces, and is a detriment to our society as whole.
It’s true that we are a product of the society we recruit from, but it is also true that as Marines, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Making Marines doesn’t simply mean training them for duty, but instilling in them the values and ethics that will in turn mold them into better citizens.
We have a proven record of doing just that, but we regularly fall short with our commitment to female Marines, as evident with recent events.
On March 14, 2017, Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, told Congress he understands this kind of behavior is a problem in the Marine Corps, and he honestly confessed to not having a good answer in regard to how to fix it.
He took full responsibility as the Commandant, and I commend him for it. He didn’t make excuses; he acknowledged the deficiencies and I genuinely believe he is seeking a sustainable solution. That took humility and courage, which are characteristics of exceptional leaders.
To get to that end goal, I think it’s important we start at the beginning.
Men and women from all over the U.S. and our territories flock to Marine Corps Recruit Depots San Diego and Parris Island every year to become Marines. Currently, the requirements to even get accepted to attend Marine Corps recruit training are higher than in that of recent years.
The Marine Corps looks for quality men and women who will add value to our force and while we may come from different backgrounds and walks of life, in the end, we’re all united in our love of Corps and country.
Many of these recruits are fresh out of high school and still in their teens, which means that sex is typically the first and last thing on their mind and a big reason why the Marine Corps has traditionally conducted much of the training separately in order to reduce distractions and make the most out of those twelve weeks.
Male Drill Instructors are known to use sexual innuendos and lewd comments about women to help male recruits remember the skills and knowledge they need to graduate. While this might be an effective way to get the male recruits to absorb the information quickly, it also exacerbates a problem that we’ve already acknowledged takes place in our society, and therefore fosters a culture that is not conducive for chivalry to thrive.
It teaches Marines that disrespecting their female counterparts, by making lewd comments about them, is acceptable.
While this might be a common practice in the civilian sector, we should, and must, hold ourselves to a higher standard.
The Marine Corps’ core values are honor, courage, and commitment. While some Marines may not follow all of these, the truth of the matter is that most do, and it is our responsibility — as noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers, and officers — to instill these values in all of our Marines by setting the example and holding each other accountable.
I can’t tell you how much I love this organization as we’re perhaps the last real warrior culture that exists today.
We’re known as modern day Spartans, Devil Dogs, etc., but I think that some may have misunderstood what it means to be a warrior. Some equate it to being hostile and irreverent towards women. Some, unfortunately, believe part of being a man means to degrade our female counterparts even though Spartans were known to hold their women in the highest regard and medieval knights were the ones who created the concept of chivalry to begin with.
My hope is that we as Marines can grasp this concept and set the example for the rest. We are known to be “First to Fight,” and it’s a term we’re proud to bear.
We thrive on being known as standard-bearers, and that is a privilege and honor that should, and must, also extend to how we choose to lead.
GPS has become increasingly important to our lives. Not only do Waze, Uber, and many other applications heavily rely on global positioning system. Our cellular networks rely on GPS clocks, banking systems, financial markets, and power grids all depend on GPS for precise time synchronization. In the finance sector, GPS-derived timing allows for ATM, credit cards transactions to be timestamped. Computer network synchronization, digital TV and radio, as well as IoT (Internet of Things) applications also rely on GPS-clock and geo-location services.
In an operational environment jamming GPS signals represents both a threat and an important capability. In addition to serving an important purpose in navigation on land, sea and in the air, GPS also provides targeting capability for precision weapons along with many other tactical and strategic purposes.
For this reason, the U.S. military frequently trains to deny or degrade GPS signals on a large-scale. In 2017, we went inside Nellis AFB to get a firsthand demonstration of how easy and how quickly the U.S. Air Force can jam GPS signals for training purposes.
For instance, the U.S. Navy’s CSG-4, that “mentors, trains and assesses Atlantic Fleet combat forces to forward deploy in support and defense of national interests”, is currently conducting GPS Interference testing in the East Coast area. As an FAA NOTAM (Notice To Airmen), issued for airspace in eight of the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers, warns, GPS could be degraded from Caribbean and Florida north to Pennsylvania west to the eastern Louisiana, while the tests are conducted Feb. 6 – 10, 2019, at different hours.
In 2017, we went inside Nellis AFB to get a firsthand demo from member of the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron (527th SAS) who showed us how easy and how quickly the U.S. Air Force can jam GPS signals for training purposes: in only a few seconds members of the 527th SAS used commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment to jam local GPS reception making many public services unavailable.
This is not the first time such GPS-denial operations take place. It has already happened on the West Coast in 2016 and, more recently, on the East Coast, at the end of August 2018:
As happened in all the previous operations, we really don’t know which kind of system is being used to jam GPS. However, it must be an embarked system, considered that the source of the jamming is a location off the coast of Georgia, centered at 313339N0793740W or the CHS (Charleston AFB) VOR 173 degree radial at 83NM (Nautical Miles).
As mentioned, not only the military is so heavily reliant on GPS.
AOPA estimates that more than 2,000 airports — home bases to more than 28,600 aircraft — are located within the area’s lowest airspace contour. The East Coast test is “unacceptably widespread and potentially hazardous,” said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic and aviation security, in an article on AOPA website.
Here’s another interesting excerpt from the same article that provides examples of how the GPS testing has affected general aviation:
A safety panel held in September 2018 ended with the FAA deadlocked on a path forward. In November 2018, AOPA reported on instances of aircraft losing GPS navigation signals during testing—and in several cases, veering off course. Instances have been documented in which air traffic control temporarily lost the tracks of ADS-B Out-equipped aircraft.
In a vivid example of direct hazard to aircraft control in April 2016, an Embraer Phenom 300 business jet entered a Dutch roll and an emergency descent after its yaw damper disengaged; the aircraft’s dual attitude and heading reference systems had reacted differently to the GPS signal outage. This issue was subsequently corrected for this aircraft.
AOPA is aware of hundreds of reports of interference to aircraft during events for which notams were issued, and the FAA has collected many more in the last year. In one example that came to AOPA’s attention, an aircraft lost navigation capability and did not regain it until after landing. During a GPS-interference event in Alaska, an aircraft departed an airport under IFR and lost GPS on the initial climb. Other reports have highlighted aircraft veering off course and heading toward active military airspace. The wide range of reports makes clear that interference affects aircraft differently, and recovery may not occur immediately after the aircraft exits the jammed area.
Pilot concern is mounting. In a January 2019 AOPA survey, more than 64 percent of 1,239 pilots who responded noted concern about the impact of interference on their use of GPS and ADS-B. (In some cases, pilots who reported experiencing signal degradation said ATC had been unaware the jamming was occurring.)
Interestingly, “stop buzzer” is the code word, pilots may radio to the ATC when testing affects GPS navigation or causes flight control issues:
Pilots who encounter hazardous interruption of GPS navigation or who have flight-control issues should be aware that they can say the phrase “Stop buzzer” to air traffic control, which initiates the process of interrupting the testing to restore navigation signal reception, Duke said.
During previous GPS-interference events, pilots declared emergencies, but the jamming continued because ATC did not understand that the emergency was related to the GPS interference. According to the Pilot/Controller Glossary, “stop buzzer” is a term used by ATC to request suspension of “electronic attack activity.” Pilots should only use the phrase when communicating with ATC, or over the emergency frequency 121.5 MHz, if a safety-of-flight issue is encountered during a known GPS interference event. Using this unique phrase when experiencing an unsafe condition related to GPS interference will ensure that ATC and the military react appropriately by stopping the jamming, Duke said.
“Pilots should only say ‘stop buzzer’ when something unsafe is occurring that warrants declaring an emergency. They should make sure ATC knows that the emergency is GPS-related and that halting the GPS interference will resolve the emergency,” he said.
Despite the complaints from the civilian side, dominating the GPS “domain” is crucial to win. Consequently, along with the periodic testing like the one underway in the U.S. southeastern coast, GPS jamming has become a common operation of the most recent Red Flag exercises that include simulated scenarios where warfighters train to operate in an environment where electronic and cyber-attacks may disable GPS capability.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
US, Japanese, and Indian warships converged in Guam for the 22nd iteration of Exercise Malabar, an annual exercise focused on developing coordination and training to counter maritime threats.
2018’s version of the exercise, which is the first to take place around Guam, runs from June 7 to June 16, 2018, but as the ships involved gathered beforehand, the Chinese navy was keeping an eye on the proceedings.
Indian ships sailing to Guam were shadowed by Chinese warships in the South China Sea, breaking off only when the Indian ships entered the Philippine Sea.
“We had good, polite conversation. They were there for some time, and then broke off,” Rear Adm. Dinesh K. Tripathi, commander of India’s Eastern Fleet and head of India’s delegation to Malabar 2018, told The Economic Times. “The moment we entered the Pacific across the Philippines Sea, they went back. It was interesting.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Stephen W. Rowe)
Surveillance by Chinese ships, which Tripathi said was “not surprising,” comes a few weeks after Indian warships spotted a Chinese ship “tailing them at a safe distance” as they left Vietnam, following the first joint exercise between those two countries.
“We knew we were being tailed, but we were on international waters or global commons, and therefore took evasive measures,” sources told India Today of the incident.
That exercise, which ran from May 21 to May 25, 2018, attracted Chinese ire, with a Global Times op-ed calling it “a futile attempt to flex muscle.”
‘Distance actually does not matter’
Malabar started in 1992 as a US-India bilateral exercise. It has been done annually since then — with the exception of 1998 through 2002, after India’s 1998 nuclear tests — expanding to a trilateral exercise with Japan’s addition in 2015.
Other countries have participated in the past, though Indian has declined Australia’s request to take part for the past two years. (Observers suspect Chinese pressure is behind Canberra’s exclusion.)
(Indian Navy / Twitter)
Malabar 2018 consists of on-shore and at-sea portions. The former ran from June 7 to June 10, 2018, involving expert and professional exchanges on carrier strike group, maritime patrol, and reconnaissance operations as well as on surface and anti-submarine warfare. The latter portion lasts from June 11 to June 16, 2018, in the Philippine Sea, and will include military-to-military coordination, air-defense and surface-warfare exercises, and replenishment while underway.
The US Navy has sent the USS Ronald Reagan, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
India’s participants include stealth frigate INS Sahyadri and the first-in-class antisubmarine-warfare corvette INS Kamorta, which was trailed by a Chinese ship while leaving Vietnam May 2018. India’s fleet tanker INS Shakti and a P-8I Neptune, the Indian variant of the P-8A Poseidon, are also taking part.
Japan sent its Hyunga-class helicopter carrier JS Ise as well as two destroyers, JS Suzunami and JS Fuyuzuki.
2018’s version of the exercise is also the first since the US Defense Department renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command— a shift that has been interpreted as both a rhetorical swipe at China and an adjustment to the growing interconnectedness of the Pacific and Indian ocean regions.
For India, basing the exercise in Guam reflects the country’s willingness and ability to project power.
“Distance actually does not matter. Wherever Indian maritime interests are, that is our area of operation,” Tripathi told The Economic Times. “Wherever national interest takes us, we will deploy if needed.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When the Air Force has looked to test out cutting-edge technology, like the U-2 Dragon Lady, SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk, they have had one piece of real estate they turn to. It’s an air base whose existence was denied until 2013. In the 1996 film Independence Day, the rumors about alien technology being tested at what was the DOD’s biggest open secret were used as a plot point.
Yeah, we’re talking about Groom Lake, also known as Homey Airport, Dreamland, or Area 51. According to a report by the Aviationist, the latest in a long line of high-tech aircraft to be tested there could be the upcoming B-21 Raider. A bomber being tested here? Well, author Dale Brown did have a bomber get tested at Groom Lake, a kick-ass B-52 called the Megafortress in Flight of the Old Dog and sequels like Night of the Hawk and Sky Masters.
Construction has been going on at the air base, to include a massive new hangar, estimated to be 250 feet by 275 feet. Two weapon storage areas have been built at the air base, which is officially known as the Nevada Test and Training Range and has been closed to the public.
Other programs that could be tested at Groom Lake include the RQ-180, an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying out reconnaissance missions. This vehicle has a range of over 2,400 miles and can fly as high as 40,000 feet, according to MilitaryFactory.com. In the past, the base has also been used to test some Soviet-era planes that were “acquired” by the United States and/or its allies in one fashion or another.
The Air Force plans to buy at least 100 B-21 bombers to replace the Air Force’s inventory of B-1B Lancers. The effort to develop the B-21, previously known s Long-Range Strike Bomber, or LRS-B, comes as Russian compliance with a number of arms control treaties appears to be non-existent, prompting the United States to begin development of a ground-launched cruise missile.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the federal agency responsible for investigating environmental threats, will begin assessing residents near eight active and former military bases for exposure to chemicals found in firefighting foam and other products.
The CDC, along with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), will check for exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, referred to as PFAS compounds, which have been linked to infertility, immune disorders, developmental delays in children and some cancers.
The compounds are found in nonstick pots and pans; water-repellent and stain-resistant fabrics; and products that repel grease, water and oil. But they are also found, concentrated, in the foam used on military bases and at airports for fighting aviation fires.
A C-130H Hercules drops a line of fire retardant.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)
Research is ongoing into the public health consequences of PFAS compounds, but the Defense Department has identified 401 active and former bases where they are known to have been released into the environment.
It also found 564 public or private drinking water systems off installations that tested above the EPA’s accepted limits.
The DoD is currently working to determine whether area residents were exposed and, if so, to switch to a clean water source and initiate cleanup. The CDC and ATSDR, meanwhile, are studying the extent of exposure and plan to launch studies to understand the relationship between PFAS compounds and health conditions.
The eight communities the agencies will examine this year are: Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; New Castle Air National Guard Base, Delaware; Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts; Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York; Reese Technology Center, Texas; Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; and Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base, West Virginia.
The investigations follow exposure assessments conducted in Bucks and Montgomery counties, Pennsylvania, near the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, and the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, N.Y.
Firefighters train during an exercise at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.
(DoD photo by Senior Airman Christopher Muncy)
CDC officials said the primary goal of the research is to “provide information to communities about levels of the contaminants in their bodies.” This information will help the communities understand the extent of exposure, they added.
“The lessons learned can also be applied to communities facing similar PFAS drinking water exposures. This will serve as a foundation for future studies evaluating the impact of PFAS exposure on human health,” said Patrick Breysse, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and ATSDR.
In addition to the contamination of some base drinking water supply systems, DoD investigations found that the groundwater at some facilities contained PFAS compounds.
According to the DoD, as of August 2017, nine Army bases, 40 Navy and Marine Corps bases, 39 Air Force bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites had groundwater levels of PFAS higher than EPA limits. The DoD tested a total of 2,668 groundwater wells for contamination, finding more than 60 percent above the EPA’s accepted limit.
According to the CDC, the community assessments will include randomly selecting residents to provide blood and urine samples to check PFAS levels. The exposure assessments will use statistically based sampling.
In May 2018, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that supports research and education on public health concerns related to environmental exposures, released an estimate that as many as 110 million Americans may have PFAS compounds in their drinking water.
A 2018 ATSDR draft toxicology report has associated PFAS compounds with ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and high blood pressure in pregnant women. In addition, the most commonly used PFAS compounds have been linked to testicular and kidney cancer.
The Air Force in 2018 announced that it had completely transitioned its firefighting services to use foam considered safer to the environment than the original aqueous firefighting foam.
The Army also plans to replace its stockpiles and to incinerate the PFAS-containing foams.
In 2016, the Navy announced a policy to stop releasing foam at its shore facilities except in emergencies and had a plan to dispose of its excess foam. It also announced plans to dispose and replace all shore systems and fire trucks that use the PFAS-containing foam.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The 1943 season was a tough one for the NFL, its fans, and America. At the height of World War II, Pennsylvania’s two pro teams lost a number of players to military service. As a result, the two teams merged temporarily in order to play out the season, forming what the NFL called the “Phil-Pitt Combine.” The sports press labeled the team the “Steagles,” a name that fans quickly adopted. The season was saved.
The U.S. government fully supported the continuation of American sports to keep morale up on the homefront, but teams like the Steagles had rosters filled by players who didn’t join the war effort because they were unfit for service, received a draft deferment, or were actually serving but on leave.
But in spite of the fact that the NFL needed eight teams to have a functional season, the Steagles almost didn’t happen. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were bitter rivals in the 1940s, and the men who would be co-head coaches hated each other.
Players received some public ridicule because of the general perception that if a player was fit enough to play football he should be fit enough to fight the Nazis. But most of the Steagles’ players were declared physically unfit for service. The teams players also worked full time war production jobs. Football was not their only gig.
Philadelphia was hometown for the team and the team wore the Eagles’ green and white colors. It was the only time in the history of the Steelers franchise that the team didn’t wear black and gold. Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney did manage to get two home games played in Pittsburgh, however, both of which they won.
After a 2-0 start, the Steagles started to fall apart and by the end of the season, their record was a mediocre 5-4-1. They still hold the record for most fumbles in a winning game, where, against the New York Giants, they lost the ball ten times but still pulled out a 28-14 win, as lopsided a win as the U.S. had against the Axis.
In 2003, the Steelers hosted the Eagles on the 60th anniversary of the Steagles’ formation and honored the surviving members who could make it. Philadelphia won that game 21-16.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is experimenting with a hybrid, unmanned, aerial vehicle that transforms in flight and gives soldiers an advantage on the battlefield of the future.
Weighing in at just over half a pound, this UAV tilts its rotors to go from hovering like a helicopter to speeding along like a sleek airplane. The design has many efficiencies, but also provides many challenges to its creator, Dr. Steve Nogar, a post-doctoral researcher with the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.
“In an aircraft, weight is everything,” Nogar said. “There are a lot of vehicles out there where designers take a quad-rotor and staple it to a fixed-wing aircraft. It may have extra propellers and actuators and it’s not very efficient. You have a lot of wasted weight.”
For testing, Nogar has temporarily attached a large paper half-circle to the prototype to slow it down. The final design will be less than 10 inches in length.
“The tilt-rotor design is kind of like the V-22 Osprey, where the motors tilt themselves,” Nogar said.
The Osprey is a multi-mission, tilt-rotor military aircraft designed for both vertical takeoff and landing. The V-22 is more than 57 feet in length. Shrinking that capability to less than one foot has been a challenge due to the complex physics that govern the vehicle’s movement and the associated control methods, Nogar said.
With this hybrid UAV, transforming from hovering to horizontal flight offers speed, agility, and mission flexibility.
“Looking forward, we want to look at perching or landing on something in the environment,” Nogar said. “That means we have to be able to sense the environment.”
Imagine a future drone that knows how to land itself to conserve power while gathering situational awareness. The UAV will need to be able to detect walls, avoid obstacles, and rapidly understand its environment.
“If you’re going to land on something, you need to know very quickly how fast that’s coming up to you as you come in to land,” he said. “We will need to enable the UAV to sense and perceive its environment using visual techniques, such as machine learning.”
The next step is continuing to experiment, refine, and experiment more.
“These vehicles will better integrate with soldiers,” he said. “Soldiers are going to have to be able to interact with these vehicles all the time and they’re going to have to work as a team to achieve their objectives.”
That objective may be finding out what’s over the next hill or scouting out enemy forces.
“We cannot put a lot of sensors on this vehicle,” Nogar said. “It’s basically what we can do with just one camera. It takes a lot more work to do the control and study the dynamics of this vehicle, but we will definitely benefit from the effort once it’s finished.”
Soldiers take part in pathfinder training at the Liberty Pickup Zone at Fort Benning, March 21, 2019. (U.S. Army/Patrick Albright)
The U.S. Army may close or drastically alter its Pathfinder School at Fort Benning, Georgia, as part of a sweeping review of all service schools operating in the reality of the stubborn COVID-19 pandemic.
Army Times reported that the service is considering shuttering the historic, three-week course that was created during World War II to train special teams of paratroopers how to guide large airborne formations onto drop zones behind enemy lines.
Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) confirmed that the Pathfinder course — which also trains soldiers how to conduct sling-load helicopter operations — is part of the review being conducted by the service’s Combined Arms Center, or CAC.
TRADOC spokesman Col. Rich McNorton told Military.com that no decision had been made as to “which ones are we going to turn off, convert to distance [learning] or in some cases go to a mobile training teams. … Pathfinder School is in there with all of those courses.”
The CAC has been conducting an analysis of all TRADOC schools for about four months to see whether they are meeting the needs of combat commanders, he added.
Shrinking defense budgets have forced the Army to look for ways to save money by possibly reducing travel needed for some training courses.
“COVID-19 accelerated that process because, all of the sudden, now we’ve got these restrictions,” McNorton said. “Some courses that we have are a week long and, in order to sustain that, we have to quarantine them for two weeks and then they start it. And it doesn’t make sense to do that.”
McNorton said what will likely happen is that the Army will prioritize which courses will remain the same and which ones will convert to mobile training teams or distance learning.
Another option may be to relocate a course, such as the Master Gunners courses at Fort Benning designed to provide advanced training to gunners on M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
Part of TRADOC Commander Gen. Paul Funk II’s guidance is “looking at and saying, ‘Hey does it make sense for everybody to go to Fort Benning for this particular course? How about we push it out to Fort Hood where the tankers are and not bring them in?'” McNorton said.
He said he isn’t sure when the review will be complete, but any recommendation to close an Army school will have to be approved by the service’s senior leadership.
“This stuff gets briefed up to senior leaders, and the senior leaders can say, ‘Bring that one back. We are not getting rid of it,'” McNorton said.
On December 2, 2015 Air Force Captain Costas Dracopoulous was on leave in Kyoto, Japan when he got word of the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. The news got his attention, not just due to the scale of the tragedy, but because San Bernardino is his home town.
And it was even more personal than he originally thought. When he logged on Facebook he saw messages that a friend of his was among the victims of the shooting. The friend was also a father of six.
Dracopoulous, who’s currently serving as the flight safety officer for the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, wanted to do something for his friend’s children along with all the other children left without parents as a result of the senseless tragedy. After consulting with a chaplain and the Red Cross, he decided the best way to help from afar was to hold a toy drive back at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.
While most servicemen overseas are usually the recipients of care packages from home, Dracopoulous was asking the 961st squadron to help pack one going the other way, and a pretty big one at that.
His fellow airmen answered the call. Within a matter of days, they rounded up over 50 toys for the victim’s children. Before shipping, he coordinated with the local police and mayor’s office of San Bernardino to ensure the items would be delivered to the right homes.
“He is an amazing warrior. ” said Air Force Lt. Col. Kyle Anderson, 961st AACS commander. “He has the idea and ideals to push forward and take care of the folks that the tragedy affected.”
“I’m ecstatic that our 961st family supported him, and it also bodes well for the squadron for one of our own to put on an event like that,” Anderson said. “We live in a small world and it shows how a tragedy stateside can affect service members over here.”
In a letter expressing gratitude to Dracopoulous and his squadron, Carey Davis – mayor of San Bernadino wrote the following:
I am proud of the united manner by which our nation has responded to the tragic events that forever impacted several lives. Your willing and generous response to the crisis and your selflessness are greatly appreciated. Thank you for going out of your way and facilitating the process between my staff and your squadron. San Bernardino is fortunate to have the support of individuals like you and your base. Once again, please accept my sincere and personal thanks. Your generosity and your willingness to give have significantly impacted the morale of our staff and community.